Final weekend of traditional boating season on Iowa lakes, rivers

CLEAR LAKE — This holiday weekend is expected to continue what has been a busy summer on Iowa’s lakes and rivers.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Susan Stocker says two words describe the crowds she’s seeing during the summer weekends. “Steady, and large, and of course, we have added our increase in paddle sports — so the nonpowered canoes and kayaks are increasing and growing all the time,” she says.

Stocker is the DNR Boating Law Administrator, and she says the big crowds haven’t led to a huge increase in problems.” It’s been going very, very well — I mean, we’ve had about average boat incidents — which is 25. And our fatality rate is lower this year with only four fatalities, which I know one is way too many,” according to Stoker.

You may’ve been out on your favorite lake several times — but Stoker says you need to be prepared for changes. “The rivers, the streams, the lakes, they’re continually constantly changing. And so that is definitely a reminder that wherever you’re going make sure you know where you’re going and know what the water looks like in that area,” Stoker says.

Some of those changes could have happened with recent rains across the state. “Some parts got two inches of rain –so you may have floating debris in that areas of water — where other parts barely got any and you may have debris, just under the surface because of lack of water,” she says. And she says you have to remember to make sure the person who is operating the boat doesn’t take part in the holiday cheer.

“Alcohol and boating don’t mix. And people need to be reminded that the wind and the sun and the glare off the water and also the heat can enhance the effects of alcohol, and that hinders an operator’s ability to think quickly,” according to Stoker. She says that can lead to an accident with serious injuries or deaths.